The 'what', the 'why' and the 'do you even care?'

The 'what', the 'why' and the 'do you even care?'


I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that, at some stage, you’ve worked in a business where messages from the top have been less than successfully received across the organisation as a whole.

In fact, workplaces are notorious for it. Often, a piece of communication that is related to changing behaviour has not achieved its desired effect – whether that be to educate, engage or inspire.

This is often not for the want of trying. Many HR, organisational effectiveness and learning & development professionals have at some point toiled over what they have seen as an effective strategy to improve communication.

However, there can be huge disconnect in this and the reality, which causes problems that are often not observed by the senior teams. In my opinion, this is usually because they get so caught up in the initial process that they make one fatal error – they do not carry the message through with enough intention.

I accept this may not sound as profound as you were expecting but I believe it is the key component in making internal engagement a success.

I came to this conclusion through my own observations but, I became so intrigued to find out more that I also conducted a survey of more than 20 professionals responsible for driving change. The most common theme from all related to intent.

One of the respondents I discussed this with – a global VP of a global £10bn business – made the point that you can’t create a strategy, a new process, way of working or value proposition and expect people to align to it just by posting something on an intranet or sending out an email – no matter how beautifully written!

His need for change was both strategy and values driven, which resulted in the change programme being driven with intent. After six month’s growth increased by over 30% and he believed this was because of the success of the campaign.

Another respondent to my questions informed me he took over as a Programme Director to help rescue a struggling project. The problems were not as a result of lack of technical expertise or resources, instead it was because ‘the what’ and ‘the why’ of the project were not effectively articulated and, therefore, levels of engagement were almost non-existent.

So, how do you become intentional? I think it comes down to identifying and understanding these two main aspects of the change you want to create, i.e.: ‘the what?’ and ‘the why?’

Once the senior teams have understood how to do this, both elements have to be communicated throughout everything all the targeted workforce does. Meeting agendas must be aligned to it, project aims must mirror it and any learning and development activity must work to support it, company-wide.

I took this in to my role at RSG and some of the highlights in terms of results include:

  • The senior management wanted to drive world class account management and customer service. I aligned all relevant training and communication to the principles we set with the account managers of: Being proactive, adaptable, knowledgeable, organised and I care. The result? Productivity and repeat business has increased dramatically.
  • Part of my own mission statement is to help people achieve more than they thought possible. As such I have developed a workshop with one of the Directors to provide individuals with a platform to discuss their ambitions with the board. From this we give them stretch assignments to develop the skills they need to get them to where they want to be.
  • I have moved our induction process from just being a process to a key tool for delivering the RSG message of empowered thinking and proven delivery. Every person joining the business knows what we stand for and we align their development and our engagement with them to this message.
  • We practise what we preach (I can’t take the credit for this!), is there anything more intentional than that?

Have you been involved in communicating change in your businesses? What challenges did you face? How did you overcome them? I would love to hear other people’s experiences.

 - Oliver Hartley, Head of Learning & Development 

Author: Oliver Hartley

Posted on: Monday 24th Oct 2016